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Mes jours de déplacement plus de


I have to say it, sad as it may seem,
To readers of this importune poem.
But my travelling days are over!
(Mes jours de déplacement plus de)

No more cheap wonky hotel rooms,
And luggage dragging, taxi honking,
Places that smell of something
Like I have never smelt before and never want to again.

Once I went through Sarawak,
Malaysian Borneo, down long grinding roads
Where monkeys danced attendance in the lay-by’s
And petrol stations were as rare as an extinct species.

Waiting at ferries for a slow crossing
Over some endless river, where logs and decomposing bodies
Were swept towards the South China Sea,
Nobody really giving a ‘hoot’ who died.

Life is so very cheap in these places,
But maybe I am old and tired
And too impatient to bear the foreign tongues
Which wag instructions to the weary traveller.

I wonder why the world don’t speak a common language –
Preferably English of course.
Forgive my French or Tagalog or Japanese!
But “nil comprehende” if you please!

Robert Barry

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My Dad Came Home from Flanders

My father fought at Ypres;
They called it the Ypres salient,
Where German lines bulged,
Into our own dear English soil.

In the middle was Hill 62,
Such a prize that twenty thousand dead
Witness to its capture and re-capture
And capture and re-capture.

My Dad’s rifle served him well at Ypres.
Leaning over the trench he sniped
At will at foolish Germans
Who raised their heads too high.

My Dad got a medal at Ypres,
For bravery in the face of the enemy.
Who was this enemy?
Men like him who left house and hearth to fight?

These Germans with their pointed heads,
They called them oppressors of the poor.
Demons from hell, whose one sole aim
Was to destroy our English freedom.

But their wives and children waited
In vain for the moment of victory
That never came, only starvation
And that terrible feeling of loss.

Talking about loss, my Father
Left his left leg at Ypres,
Somewhere in the sucking mud.
But they never found his lost leg.

Yet as a child I remember well
His footfall coming home;
Dot one – carry one, the sound
That always announced his arrival.

My Dad hardly ever spoke of Ypres,
Except that once he said,
The shell that did for his leg
Also did for his mates.

So my Dad came home
But his mates didn’t;
That’s why I am here
Writing this poem in case I forget.

Robert Barry

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Hark! The merry checkouts ring!

Hark! The merry checkouts ring,
Credit cards for everything!
Space war toys with flashing sparks,
Purewool skirt we bought at Mark’s.
Glacéfruit in crystal jars,
Laptops, gin and Dutch cigars.
We’re the victims of hardsell,
Christmas shopping is pure hell.
Hark! the merry checkouts ring,
Credit cards for everything.

Disregard the checkouts ring,
Try to hear the angels sing,
Bringing good news to the earth,
Gospel of a Saviour’s birth.
“Peace on earth” their message still,
“Peace to all those of good will.
Christ is born!” the angels cry,
“Glory be to God on high!”
Let the checkouts have their ring,
We will hear the angels sing.

John Bowers

from: http://www.mpldigital.com/crosslincs/newspaper
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The Rolling English Road

The Rolling English Road



Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode, 
The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road. 
A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire, 
And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire; 
A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread 
The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head. 


I knew no harm of Bonaparte and plenty of the Squire, 
And for to fight the Frenchman I did not much desire; 
But I did bash their baggonets because they came arrayed 
To straighten out the crooked road an English drunkard made, 
Where you and I went down the lane with ale-mugs in our hands, 
The night we went to Glastonbury by way of Goodwin Sands. 


His sins they were forgiven him; or why do flowers run 
Behind him; and the hedges all strengthening in the sun? 
The wild thing went from left to right and knew not which was which, 
But the wild rose was above him when they found him in the ditch. 
God pardon us, nor harden us; we did not see so clear 
The night we went to Bannockburn by way of Brighton Pier. 


My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage, 
Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age, 
But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth, 
And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death; 
For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen, 
Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.

by G. K. Chesterton. 

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Toxic shame: Thousands injured in African city

Synopsis of an Article removed from Independent Newspaper website after injunction by British oil trading giant, Trafigura.

A British oil trading giant has agreed to a multimillion-pound payout to settle a huge damages claim from thousands of Ivory Coast citizens who fell ill from tonnes of toxic waste dumped illegally around the principal city of Abidjan in one of the worst pollution incidents in decades.

Under the deal, thousands of Ivorians who suffered short-term illnesses, including vomiting, diarrhoea and breathing difficulties, receive a payout understood to be set at several hundred pounds. But the settlement, which is likely to be confirmed by the end of this month, will mean that claims of more serious injuries caused by the waste – including miscarriages, still births and birth defects – will now not be tested in the £100m court claim, which had been scheduled to start in London’s High Court next month.  Trafigura is a privately-owned multinational which has 1,900 staff working in 42 offices around the world, last year claimed a turnover of $73bn (£44bn). The figure is double the entire GDP of Ivory Coast, where half the population of 21 million live on less than a dollar a day.

Trafigura, a London-based company which bills itself as one of the world’s largest oil traders, said it was in talks to reach a "global settlement" to the claim by 30,000 people from Ivory Coast, who brought Britain’s largest-ever lawsuit after contaminated sludge from a tanker ship was fly-tipped under cover of darkness in August 2006. The incident caused at least 100,000 residents from the west African country’s most populous city, Abidjan, to flood into hospitals and clinics complaining of breathing difficulties and sickness. Investigations by the Ivorian authorities suggestedthat the deaths of at least 10 people were linked to the waste. Trafigura has always insisted the foul-smelling slurry, dumped without its knowledge by a sub-contractor, could not have caused serious injury or illness. At the heart of the dumping incident, which at times seemed to owe more to the novels of John Grisham than 21st-century commerce, lies an oil deal spanning three continents.

Internal Trafigura emails, obtained by Greenpeace, show that Trafigura struck a series of bargains on the international markets in 2005 and early 2006 to buy cheap and dirty petroleum, called coker gasoline, which the company believed could then be cleaned up at profit of £4m per cargo.  Rather than send the oil to a refinery, Trafigura used the Probo Koala, a Panamanian tanker chartered by the company since 2004, as a floating processing plant while it was anchored off Gibraltar. Using an ad hoc process of adding caustic soda and a catalyst to the coker gasoline, the oil was "cleaned" to produce a sellable fuel and a toxic sludge which sank to the bottom of the ship’s tanks. The precise composition of the waste is strongly disputed, with Trafigura vigorously denying it contained high concentrations of hydrogen sulphide, a potentially lethal poisonous gas. The presence of mercaptan, a sulphurous chemical that is widely recognised as the most foul-smelling substance known to man, was confirmed. Problems began for Trafigura when it needed to dispose of the slurry.

When the Probo Koala arrived in Amsterdam in July 2006 and tried to unload the contaminated slops, allegedly described as "watery cleaning liquids", the process caused a health alert and Trafigura was informed the cost of dealing with its by-product would rise from £17 per cubic metre to £800. Rather than pay the estimated bill of £500,000, Trafigura ordered the waste to be pumped back on to the Probo Koala and the vessel travelled to west Africa. The first the four million inhabitants of Abidjan knew of their role in Trafigura’s project was after darkness on 19 August 2006. A fleet of 12 trucks hired by a local waste contractor, Compagnie Tommy, which had only received its operating licence weeks earlier, offloaded the sulphurous sludge from the cargo vessel and deposited the waste at 18 locations around the sprawling, over-crowded city. Hospital records showed that within hours thousands of patients were treated for complaints including nausea, breathlessness, headaches, skin reactions and a range of ear, nose, throat and pulmonary problems.

The bitterly contested legal action has seen Trafigura repeatedly deploy one of Britain’s most aggressive firms of lawyers, Carter Ruck, to prevent reporting on the case by media outlets including the BBC. The firm also obtained  a court super-injunction preventing reporting of a question asked in Parliament, as well as preventing reporting of the existence of the injunction itself. More recently Carter-Ruck, Trafigura’s lawyers, have tried to prevent a parliamentary debate, on the incident referred to in the injunction, from taking place. 

Their intention was to prevent any mention or publication of the Minton Report, which examines the nature and hazards posed by the toxic waste. This damning report has since appeared on a number of web sites, including Wikileaks . Readers can help the victims and the press undermine this unconscionable gag order, by spreading the URL which Wikileaks have made available as a downloadable PDF file fromé2009.pdf

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The “I” and the Me”


A personal recollection of an out-of-body experience. This a re-working of a previous prose piece which I have now removed from an earlier blog in case it looks familiar which is unlikely since I doubt anybody read it previously if you get my drift. The painting is called "Salvia".

Who is the ‘I’ that stands outside me looking in,

is it eponymous fate or is it some divine creature,

hidden for ages in the “I” of God

before it was released upon this unpitying morning,

delivering its inert messages.


Did the Prophets have these moments,

looking for recalcitrant words,

hesitating  to define the ‘I’ and the ‘me’,

that coupled pair who never really sang in harmony

when time first set us in spinning motion like twin suns forever circling.


For the ‘me’ of old was forged from my parent’s crooked clay,

subject like them to time and degradation.

It was parental ignorance that turned me

on the twisted wheel of fate into the deform that you now behold,

the creature of rutted habit doomed forever

to follow the same useless path.


The Potter’s wheel is so deformed,

it cannot shape the growing child

to suit the ‘I’ who was presented with this wreckage,

to make the best or worst of it,

depending on what fate brought forth.

Eons will  pass before ‘I’ am set free,

returned to the maker pure and unmarked by the body’s boundaries;

This is the origin of angels.


Now, as I grow old and time runs fast,

these boundaries are stretched almost to infinity,

blurred yet encompassing both the real and the imaginary world.

This is the true search for knowing,

stepping outside myself, hands dangling free,

unshapely, yet in craving pose,

waiting to grasp whatever reality might come my way.


I see others, also searching,

but mostly unknowingly, unwittingly

and restlessly seeking something real, tangible or unobtainably true.

The outer being only sees the somnambulant robot,

the ambivalent bloated hands clumsily reaching out,

then resting before moving on.


Yet ‘I’ am still the controller of my destiny,

driving the robot ‘me’, forever forward to new expectations.

The puttied hands swell until the centre of soul takes its rightful place

at that single point that is the beginning of everything.


‘I’ have no loss of reality here.

It is only the illusion of ‘me’.

‘I’ see clearly while the ‘me’ stumbles in dark places.

Robert Barry

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Let me Die a Young Man’s Death by Roger McGough

Let me Die a Young Man’s Death 

Let me die a young man’s death,
not a clean and inbetween
the sheets holywater death,
not a famous-last-words
peaceful out of breath death.

When I’m 73
and in constant good tumour,
may I be mown down at dawn
by a bright red sports car
on my way home
from an all night party.

Or when I’m 91
with silver hair
and sitting in a barber’s chair,
may rival gangsters
with hamfisted tommyguns
burst in and give me a short back and insides.

Or when I’m 104
and banned from the Cavern,
may my mistress
catching me in bed with her daughter,
and fearing for her son,
cut me up into little pieces
and throw away every piece but one.

Let me die a young man’s death
not a free from sin tiptoe in
candle wax and waning death
not a curtains drawn by angels borne
‘what a nice way to go’ death.

Roger McGough

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The Green Man

The Green Man

I met a man in Lincolnshire
Who smelt of frost and hay.
His skin was painted with the sun,
His body was of clay.

His coat was made of bindweed
His cap was made of bark,
He gathered up the morning
And put away the dark.

He had a hump upon his back
Along the road he swayed,
And in his mouth, a silver flute
On which a tune he played.

It was an ancient melody
That came upon my ears,
Older than the centuries
And longer than the years

He turned his face towards me
His eyes were polished stone.
I gazed upon his features –
And gazed into my own!

Robert Barry 

Inspired by the carving of “The Green Man” in Southwell Minster which I first saw in 1986 and has fascinated me ever since.

NOTE: The Green Man has found a special and intriguing place in British history in the past thousand years or so. He flourished throughout England in Medieval times, and he is also infamously seen at the Rosslyn Chapel (mid fifteenth century) in Midlothian, Scotland where he has a part to play in a storm of controversy and conspiracy theories.
The first carvings of foliate heads originated in Roman art during the second half of the first century AD. These early foliate heads and masks were usually adorned with acanthus leaves, a common plant in the Mediterranean at the time.
Foliate heads made an appearance at Neumagen in Germany carved on the sarcophagi of wine merchants during the second and third centuries. As Kathleen Basford wonders in her book ‘The Green Man’, this “perhaps recalls the ancient rustic festivals held in honour of Dionysos where revellers stained their faces with new wine and masked them with huge beards made out of leaves.”
However, the Green Man didn’t make his first appearance in Britain until the eleventh century where he put down roots in the Church and adapted his leafy structure to the English way of life, incorporating oak leaves, hawthorn, ivy and hops during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
In twelfth century churches such as St John the Evangelist, (Elkstone, Gloucestershire) and St Leonard, (Linley, Shropshire) the Green Man is crudely depicted in the stonework, but in St Mary and St David (Kilpeck, Herefordshire) the doorway carvings are beautifully chiselled in intricate detail.
Although the Green Man is often nowadays connected to Jack-in-the-Green, there isn’t any evidence to suggest a relationship. Jack-in-the-Green and the Green Man only appear together towards the end of the eighteenth century when a photographer, Mr CJP Cave, took photographs of the roof bosses in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral and noted that the faces under the foliage reminded him of the Jack-in-the-Green he recalled from his childhood days.
However, the Green Man is easily traced through the Church as this is where he grew and developed into the anguished soul peering through the foliage as we know him today.
He began life in Britain and countries north of the Alps as a diabolical figure. In Exeter Cathedral he is depicted as being trodden upon by The Virgin, but without knowing the artist’s motives we can only guess at what he was trying to portray. Perhaps it is the triumph of Christianity over paganism or the triumph of ‘higher’ man over his animal nature. The Green Man has also been portrayed as the three-headed Satan (Triceps Beelzebub, the Trinity of Evil) which shows evidence of being perpetuated in Scandinavia but is comparatively rare in Britain. Fifteenth century examples of the unholy Trinity can be found in the Green Man’s portrayal as a devil in Chester Cathedral and as a crowned tricephalos at Cartmel Priory, Cumbria.
The Green Man branched out and flourished within the confines of the Church across Europe in the thirteenth century with unusual and startling depictions in Bamberg Cathedral, Germany and in Auxerre Cathedral, France. The former is in stone – a rectangular, almost stylised portrait of the Green Man – with an indescribable, yet knowing, expression, while in Auxerre he peers down at the congregation in bewilderment.
In England during this time he was often depicted with a pained expression biting down upon branches, or growing sprigs out of his mouth, such as at St Wulfram (Grantham, Lincolnshire), Ripon Cathedral (Yorkshire) , Dorchester Abbey (Oxfordshire) and famously at Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire.
Sometimes he is seen poking out his tongue, or with an ape-like face, almost as a grotesque or a gargoyle might be employed to frighten away evil spirits, but through the centuries he has become increasingly human, more a tortured soul than a demonic entity. It’s difficult to distinguish between simple decoration and a depiction with greater meaning, but it’s tempting to think that the Church was visually reminding their flock that man is a creature of two parts and that submitting to the animal half, aligned to flora and fauna, would lead to misery. In this way the Green Man appears to be a lost soul.
Changes of style took place in France, then Germany, during the thirteenth century, and it is during the fourteenth century that the Green Man in his guise familiar to us today of a human head surrounded by leaves took form. There is a spectacular example of him in All Saints church at Sutton Benger in Wiltshire where his sorrowful eyes look at us amidst a mass of hawthorn carved in stone, and he looks positively desperate to escape his leafy bondage in the choir stalls at Lincoln Cathedral. Norwich cathedral has a variety of Green Men with quite alarming expressions glowering down at us from the roof bosses.
Nowadays, the Green Man is claimed as belonging to various groups, from neo-Pagans to certain occult societies. The worship of nature and the worship of the severed head certainly have places in British folk-lore and customs stretching back in time and a recurring character is Jack in the Green. He is also known as the Grass King, King of the May, the Wild Man, King of the Wood and more, and it can be said that in any of these incarnations he represents the spirit of vegetation. Frazer’s ‘The Golden Bough’ cites many examples of customs pertaining to Jack in the Green, too numerous to mention, but suffice it to say that the custom of beheading a foliate man effigy at the vernal equinox is persistent throughout Europe.
We can only guess at the reasons why the Church adopted the Green Man and in what context their architects meant him to be portrayed. In more recent centuries he has captured the public imagination as can be seen by the number of pubs bearing his name. However, as artists and pagans alike continue with their fascination with the Green Man it seems that we haven’t outgrown him yet nor completely forgotten that we are, like him, enmeshed with our natural surroundings.

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Poem in October

Poem in October

It was my thirtieth year to heaven

Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood

And the mussel pooled and the heron

Priested shore

The morning beckon

With water praying and call of seagull and rook

And the knock of sailing boats on the net webbed

Myself to set foot

That second

In the still sleeping town and set forth.

My birthday began with the water-

Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my

Above the farms and the white horses

And I rose

In rainy autumn

And walked abroad in a shower of all my days.

High tide and the heron dived when I took the road

Over the border

And the gates

Of the town closed as the town awoke.

A springful of larks in a rolling

Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with

Blackbirds and the sun of October


On the hill’s shoulder,

Here were fond climates and sweet singers suddenly

Come in the morning where I wandered and listened

To the rain wringing

Wind blow cold

In the wood faraway under me.

Pale rain over the dwindling harbour

And over the sea wet church the size of a snail

With its horns through mist and the castle

Brown as owls

But all the gardens

Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall

Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud.

There could I marvel

My birthday

Away but the weather turned around.

It turned away from the blithe country

And down the other air and the blue altered sky

Streamed again a wonder of summer

With apples

Pears and red currants

And I saw in the turning so clearly a child’s

Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother

Through the parables

Of sun light

And the legends of the green chapels

And the twice told fields of infancy

That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart
moved in mine.

These were the woods the river and sea

Where a boy

In the listening

Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his

To the trees and the stones and the fish in the

And the mystery

Sang alive

Still in the water and singingbirds.

And there could I marvel my birthday

Away but the weather turned around. And the true

Joy of the long dead child sang burning

In the sun.

It was my thirtieth

Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon

Though the town below lay leaved with October

O may my heart’s truth

Still be sung

On this high hill in a year’s turning.

Dylan Thomas

A Thirtieth birthday is important, it marks the transition from unthinking and joyful youth to the beginnings of wisdom and worldly concerns. It is unlikely that the heart’s truth will be celebrated in a years time, rather that the vagaries of our childhood upbringing will come to have an increasing effect on the possibilities open to us. WE thought we owned the world but the world owns us snd decides our fate without our permisssion.  Indeed on that birthday, for us as for the poet, the ‘weather turned around’ and life began to unravel the dark side of our personaility which hitherto had gone unrecognised except in the occasional but inexplicable outburst of fury at what life has served up to us. 

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